Organic food worse for the climate

From Eurekalert

Organically farmed food has a bigger climate impact than conventionally farmed food, due to the greater areas of land required. This is the finding of a new international study, published in the journal Nature

Chalmers University of Technology

IMAGE: The crops per hectare are significantly lower in organic farming, which, according to the study, leads to much greater indirect carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation. Although direct emissions from organic agriculture are often lower — due to less use of fossil energy, among other things – the overall climate footprint is definitely greater than for conventional farmed foods. Credit: Yen Strandqvist/Chalmers University of Technology

IMAGE: The crops per hectare are significantly lower in organic farming, which, according to the study, leads to much greater indirect carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation. Although direct emissions from organic agriculture are often lower — due to less use of fossil energy, among other things – the overall climate footprint is definitely greater than for conventional farmed foods. Credit: Yen Strandqvist/Chalmers University of Technology

Organically farmed food has a bigger climate impact than conventionally farmed food, due to the greater areas of land required. This is the finding of a new international study involving Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, published in the journal Nature.

The researchers developed a new method for assessing the climate impact from land-use, and used this, along with other methods, to compare organic and conventional food production. The results show that organic food can result in much greater emissions.

“Our study shows that organic peas, farmed in Sweden, have around a 50 percent bigger climate impact than conventionally farmed peas. For some foodstuffs, there is an even bigger difference – for example, with organic Swedish winter wheat the difference is closer to 70 percent,” says Stefan Wirsenius, an associate professor from Chalmers, and one of those responsible for the study.

The reason why organic food is so much worse for the climate is that the yields per hectare are much lower, primarily because fertilisers are not used. To produce the same amount of organic food, you therefore need a much bigger area of land.

The ground-breaking aspect of the new study is the conclusion that this difference in land usage results in organic food causing a much larger climate impact.

“The greater land-use in organic farming leads indirectly to higher carbon dioxide emissions, thanks to deforestation,” explains Stefan Wirsenius. “The world’s food production is governed by international trade, so how we farm in Sweden influences deforestation in the tropics. If we use more land for the same amount of food, we contribute indirectly to bigger deforestation elsewhere in the world.”

Even organic meat and dairy products are – from a climate point of view – worse than their conventionally produced equivalents, claims Stefan Wirsenius.

“Because organic meat and milk production uses organic feed-stock, it also requires more land than conventional production. This means that the findings on organic wheat and peas in principle also apply to meat and milk products. We have not done any specific calculations on meat and milk, however, and have no concrete examples of this in the article,” he explains.

A new metric: Carbon Opportunity Cost

The researchers used a new metric, which they call “Carbon Opportunity Cost”, to evaluate the effect of greater land-use contributing to higher carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation. This metric takes into account the amount of carbon that is stored in forests, and thus released as carbon dioxide as an effect of deforestation. The study is among the first in the world to make use of this metric.

“The fact that more land use leads to greater climate impact has not often been taken into account in earlier comparisons between organic and conventional food,” says Stefan Wirsenius. “This is a big oversight, because, as our study shows, this effect can be many times bigger than the greenhouse gas effects, which are normally included. It is also serious because today in Sweden, we have politicians whose goal is to increase production of organic food. If that goal is implemented, the climate influence from Swedish food production will probably increase a lot.”

So why have earlier studies not taken into account land-use and its relationship to carbon dioxide emissions?

“There are surely many reasons. An important explanation, I think, is simply an earlier lack of good, easily applicable methods for measuring the effect. Our new method of measurement allows us to make broad environmental comparisons, with relative ease,” says Stefan Wirsenius.

The results of the study are published in the article “Assessing the efficiency of changes in land use for mitigating climate change” in the journal Nature. The article is written by Timothy Searchinger, Princeton University, Stefan Wirsenius, Chalmers University of Technology, Tim Beringer, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, and Patrice Dumas, Cired.

More on: The consumer perspective

Stefan Wirsenius notes that the findings do not mean that conscientious consumers should simply switch to buying non-organic food. “The type of food is often much more important. For example, eating organic beans or organic chicken is much better for the climate than to eat conventionally produced beef,” he says. “Organic food does have several advantages compared with food produced by conventional methods,” he continues. “For example, it is better for farm animal welfare. But when it comes to the climate impact, our study shows that organic food is a much worse alternative, in general.”

For consumers who want to contribute to the positive aspects of organic food production, without increasing their climate impact, an effective way is to focus instead on the different impacts of different types of meat and vegetables in our diet. Replacing beef and lamb, as well as hard cheeses, with vegetable proteins such as beans, has the biggest effect. Pork, chicken, fish and eggs also have a substantially lower climate impact than beef and lamb.

See also earlier press release from 24 February 2016: Better technology could take agriculture halfway towards climate targets https://www.mynewsdesk.com/uk/chalmers/pressreleases/better-technology-could-take-agriculture-halfway-towards-climate-targets-1325077

More on: The conflict between different environmental goals

In organic farming, no fertilisers are used. The goal is to use resources like energy, land and water in a long-term, sustainable way. Crops are primarily nurtured through nutrients present in the soil. The main aims are greater biological diversity and a balance between animal and plant sustainability. Only naturally derived pesticides are used.

The arguments for organic food focus on consumers’ health, animal welfare, and different aspects of environmental policy. There is good justification for these arguments, but at the same time, there is a lack of scientific evidence to show that organic food is in general healthier and more environmentally friendly than conventionally farmed food, according to the National Food Administration of Sweden and others. The variation between farms is big, with the interpretation differing depending on what environmental goals one prioritises. At the same time, current analysis methods are unable to fully capture all aspects.

The authors of the study now claim that organically farmed food is worse for the climate, due to bigger land use. For this argument they use statistics from the Swedish Board of Agriculture on the total production in Sweden, and the yields per hectare for organic versus conventional farming for the years 2013-2015.

Source (in Swedish): https://www.jordbruksverket.se/webdav/files/SJV/Amnesomraden/Statistik,%20fakta/Vegetabilieproduktion/JO14/JO14SM1801/JO14SM1801_ikortadrag.htm

More on biofuels: “The investment in biofuels increases carbon dioxide emissions”

Today’s major investments in biofuels are also harmful to the climate because they require large areas of land suitable for crop cultivation, and thus – according to the same logic – increase deforestation globally, the researchers in the same study argue.

For all common biofuels (ethanol from wheat, sugar cane and corn, as well as biodiesel from palm oil, rapeseed and soya), the carbon dioxide cost is greater than the emissions from fossil fuel and diesel, the study shows. Biofuels from waste and by-products do not have this effect, but their potential is small, the researchers say.

All biofuels made from arable crops have such high emissions that they cannot be called climate-smart, according to the researchers, who present the results on biofuels in an op-ed in the Swedish Newspaper Dagens Nyheter: “The investment in biofuels increases carbon dioxide emissions”

Source (in Swedish): https://www.dn.se/debatt/satsningen-pa-biodrivmedel-okar-koldioxidutslappen/

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Trebla
December 17, 2018 10:03 am

Good! Now the eco-loonies who usually belong to this camp as well will have to make a choice.

Rocketscientist
Reply to  Trebla
December 17, 2018 11:16 am

They always have done a rather poor accounting of things. With the elimination of fertilizers reducing yields, this is obvious. If they further double down on the stupidity and eliminate mechanized farming practices for more labor intensive methods (hand labor) the yields will reduce further due to in ability to harvest efficiently, plus the amount of CO2 created by the harvest will rise creating even more.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Rocketscientist
December 17, 2018 11:55 am

Thanks for calling modern farming mechanized, RS. The standard “organic” vs “conventional” is very misleading.

The correct comparators are ‘primitive’ and ‘high-technology.’ Organic methods are those used in the early 19th century and prior. Modern methods are science/technology informed.

Menicholas
Reply to  Pat Frank
December 17, 2018 9:18 pm

I agree (with all three of you).
It is hardly surprising, to me and apparently to others here, that modern methods are more efficient than pretending we are living 10,000 years ago, and things were better then.

Reply to  Trebla
December 18, 2018 12:36 am

No they will not they will simply continue to “believe” that they are correct. End of discussion. They just “know” these things.

Reply to  Trebla
December 18, 2018 12:36 am

No they will not they will simply continue to “believe” that they are correct. End of discussion. They just “know” these things.

Al Miller
December 17, 2018 10:10 am

Gee, it costs more to purchase (which is why I never but organic) and now we see the truth- it’s worse for the world.
Imagine the greenies causing a bigger problem solved…let’s see corn ethanol, 14th century bird choppers… OMG the list is too long to type out!

markl
December 17, 2018 10:14 am

More unintended consequences.

Hugs
December 17, 2018 10:16 am

No sheet, Sherlock, we’re out of paper.

Ecoloonies probably won’t like this result a lot, though.

MarkW
December 17, 2018 10:20 am

I’d like to see the evidence that organically grown crops require less “fossil fuels” to grow.
Especially since the tractors have to be driven a lot more due to the larger amount of land needed to grow them.

StephenP
Reply to  MarkW
December 17, 2018 10:34 am

Organic systems use much more fuel when ploughing to prepare seedbeds and control weeds, compared to minimal cultivation methods used by modern conventional farming.

Reply to  StephenP
December 18, 2018 3:00 am

That can be sidestepped with home hydroponic growing.

https://www.happyleafled.com/at-home-led-grow-lights/

But you then get electrical costs. Which good lights can minimize.

ozspeaksup
Reply to  StephenP
December 18, 2018 3:51 am

this statement is absolute crap!
“In organic farming, no fertilisers are used.”
no in decent organic farming rockdust and manures are used.!!!
or cattle and chickens are used to remove weeds and fertilise ie Joel Salatins clips you could see on youtube.

and FYI organic farms use tractors etc to slash n till and disk over just the SAME as chem poisoners do
they also use MORE diesel as they spray weeds repeatedly on rr crops

if they used a BRED to require hi additional nutrient strain in both areas?
well most organic farmers use old strains that do fine with standard low inputs.
when an organic crop is up you dont go in the paddock usually
unless forced to use a safe spray with an outbreak of downy mildew or similar.
that would be rare
of course the cost of embodied energy IN chem fertiliser got a feee pass
I really wonder what big agri/chem co is funding this mob?
and they state this from 2 small trials as if its perfect science?
come on people wake up.
its as smelly as the- we found 2 fish- Tasmanian claims of the entire species moving and shrinking was.
I agree organic shouldnt cost what it does
the inputs are lower especially for lack of chem n pesticides costs
as well as not being commercial priced dud weak seeds, that wont grow without massive inputs

December 17, 2018 10:23 am

Organic is one of the more cynical marketing ploys ever devised.

Caligula Jones
Reply to  Tom Halla
December 17, 2018 11:06 am

Well, that and “gluten-free”…

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Caligula Jones
December 17, 2018 12:08 pm

And “fat free” 100% sugar products.

Menicholas
Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 17, 2018 9:20 pm

“And “fat free” 100% sugar products.”
Let’s not forget “cholesterol free” vegetable products.

Ken Irwin
Reply to  Menicholas
December 17, 2018 9:59 pm

Don’t forget Domino’s carbon free sugar.

I tell my green friends I run my car only on organic petrol – they then want to know where to buy it.

No cure for stupid I’m afraid.

oeman50
Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 18, 2018 9:22 am

I always had a beef with products that advertised “98% fat-free” instead of saying “2% fat.” I always thought they should give me the fat-free part and keep the rest.

Editor
Reply to  Caligula Jones
December 17, 2018 12:55 pm

Gluten-free: Some people do use gluten-free as a fad, but they do a grave disservice to those with Coeliac Disease whose lives depend on having genuinely gluten-free food.

Caligula Jones
Reply to  Mike Jonas
December 17, 2018 1:10 pm

Noted. My comment went more to the self-diagnosed Celiac sufferers.

I was once at a meal with my wife and 8 friends (Asian fusion). One friend is deathly allergic to peanuts (lot of peanuts used in Asian food), another a less-serious but bad allergy to shellfish (again, lots of sea food on the menu), and one with Celiac.

It was a credit to the restaurant (on a cruise ship, even more remarkable) and especially the servers who got everything right (and the peanut-allergy sufferer is very, very good at noticing things like someone transferring a plate from one hand to the other. Hey, if my life was on the line….)

I

Caligula Jones
Reply to  Caligula Jones
December 17, 2018 1:17 pm

Sorry, forgot to add this:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/going-gluten-free-just-because-heres-what-you-need-to-know-201302205916

“There’s one more thing you might consider doing: keep your dietary choice to yourself. The more than 300,000-plus people in this country with celiac disease have to follow a gluten-free diet, because the tiniest taste of gluten will trigger debilitating gastrointestinal discomfort. It’s time consuming, expensive, and restrictive. “It’s a gigantic burden for those who have to follow it,” says Dr. Leffler. “They get frustrated when they hear how wonderful this diet is.””

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Caligula Jones
December 17, 2018 2:46 pm

My daughter in law (and possibly a granddaughter) is a coeliac and suffers severe reactions to tiny amounts of gluten. A few years ago gluten free was hard to find, with limited choice and expensive in the UK and it still is in rural France. One of the benefits of increased demand for gluten free food from non-coeliac suffers has had the effect of increasing choice and reduced prices. It’s an ill wind.

Caligula Jones
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
December 18, 2018 6:23 am

“One of the benefits of increased demand for gluten free food from non-coeliac suffers has had the effect of increasing choice and reduced prices.”

Good point, never thought of that. Hope things work out well. Sometimes the laws of unintended consequences work in a good way.

MarkW
Reply to  Caligula Jones
December 17, 2018 12:56 pm

A few months ago I saw a sack of sugar that was labeled “gluten free”.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  MarkW
December 17, 2018 2:05 pm

Ha!

Our supermarket sells water with a five-star health rating!

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
December 17, 2018 2:12 pm

My water bottle lists ” grams of fat” contained in the water. It is zero.

DonM
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
December 17, 2018 3:09 pm

what if it was noted otherwise ???

Menicholas
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
December 17, 2018 9:27 pm

“My water bottle lists ” grams of fat” contained in the water. It is zero.”

True, but what it lacks in protein, it more than makes up for in complex carbohydrates.

Rocketscientist
Reply to  Tom Halla
December 17, 2018 11:20 am

Good thing it only works on stupid people. Plus it makes the stupid ones easier to spot.
They miss all the big things and concentrate on the inconsequential ones.
We call that majoring in the minors.

RobR
Reply to  Tom Halla
December 17, 2018 11:28 am

Up until recently I would agree. The term organic also covers farm animal feed and treatment.

There is a world of difference between hormone injected corn fed beef and organic grass fed beef. I eat grass fed beef and venison (take 3 deer with a bow each year) and the benefits are immediate. Weight loss and higher libido kick in after just a few days of eating clean food.

Maybe the rest of the organic claims are bunk, but pumping beef and chickens full of (female) hormones pollutes the meat.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  RobR
December 17, 2018 12:15 pm

I’ll grant you the change in taste. After all, free-range cattle have a significantly different lifestyle and food. They should taste different. If you prefer the flavor, I’m not one to criticize.

However, believing that you can see a difference in health from such a minor change falls into that magic food nonsense that’s so prevalent among the purveyors of “health” foods that have the sole common factor of trying to get into your wallet. The hormones are not only so small a quantity in the meat that it defies belief that you would see a difference, but they are deactivated by both aging and cooking.

MarkW
Reply to  Ben of Houston
December 17, 2018 12:59 pm

Not only that, but the “hormones” are the same hormones that are already in the cow. The injection just temporarily increases the level.
PS: By the time the cow is slaughtered, the hormone levels have already returned to normal. If they haven’t that means the rancher has been wasting his money by injecting too much too late.

ozspeaksup
Reply to  MarkW
December 18, 2018 3:57 am

they dont inject
its either IN feed or in a pellet lodged in the ear to slow release antibiotics as growth promoters
either way its stupid and a risk to the animals and humans

MarkW
Reply to  MarkW
December 18, 2018 7:12 am

Spoken like a true ideologue.

RobR
Reply to  Ben of Houston
December 17, 2018 8:25 pm

I’m 57 and let’s just say the equipment functions better when I eat free range beef and venison.

You might be think it’s placebo; I call spontaneous wood.

Robert Wager
Reply to  RobR
December 17, 2018 1:41 pm

The tiny amount of hormone give to beef cows is long long gone by the time the beef comes to market. It is illegal to feed/inject any hormones in chickens and pigs. has been for a long time. If hormones scare you then don’t eat as just about everything has endogenous hormones.

Justus
Reply to  RobR
December 17, 2018 6:47 pm

I agree! Chemicals never been good for us and for this planet as well. So let’s continue farm conventionally, use more chemicals, kill ourselves and more bugs! No bugs = no us! Very simple.
Total conspiracy study.
Organic might use more space but they don’t mention impact of chemicals to our environment. And it’s time we stopped binning tons of consumable food everyday (like supermarkets, etc.),being greedy, start managing food porperly and we wouldn’t need more land for farming. Controlling births would help a lot as well.
And all the people here think that all these allergies and disorders come from out of the blue. This is consequences of pollution, chemicals we eat, use etc. Blessed it be our civilisation! Lol

Billy
Reply to  Justus
December 17, 2018 9:07 pm

All food is 100% chemical.

2hotel9
Reply to  Billy
December 18, 2018 5:54 am

As are all of us, too.

Menicholas
Reply to  Justus
December 17, 2018 9:33 pm

As a trained chemist, I feel compelled to point out that everything we eat, is composed of 100% chemicals.

Justus
Reply to  Menicholas
December 18, 2018 10:51 am

I had a feeling, you’re all chemists here. Spreading propaganda that organic farming is no good , cos that’s loss of money for chemical industry. Praised be the biggest industry in the world!

2hotel9
Reply to  Justus
December 19, 2018 5:53 am

Feel free to stop using all man made products. More for us!

2hotel9
Reply to  Justus
December 18, 2018 5:53 am

Duh, us and this planet are entirely constituted of chemicals. Reset to zero, start over.

Justus
Reply to  2hotel9
December 18, 2018 7:27 am

Duh! We are! The whole world is 100% chemicals. But there’s difference between natural (water, plants etc.) and man made (plastic, polyester, pesticides etc.) chemicals. I don’t see how man made cr*p can be good to us and the environment. Neither plastic, nor exhaust gas are. The list is long and sad. And the list of diseases, for the same reason, as well.

2hotel9
Reply to  Justus
December 19, 2018 5:50 am

You still have to reset to zero and start over. Your doomcrying has totally failed, the world has not ended, humans are happily multiplying, food production continues at record pace. You don’t like how it is done? Tough. We will continue to do what works and you will continue to run in circles cackling that the sky is falling. It seems to entertain you so carry on.

Menicholas
Reply to  2hotel9
December 18, 2018 1:53 pm

Newsflash:
People are healthier and live longer and have less diseases than ever.
Thanks to…wait for it…chemicals!
You may not believe it, but that can be cured with some good old fashioned edumacation.

MarkW
Reply to  Justus
December 18, 2018 7:14 am

I’m wondering. Are you still living on this planet or has the mothership already collected you?

Spraying insecticide on farm crops equals killing every bug on the plaent????

People had allergies hundreds of years ago.

Justus
Reply to  MarkW
December 18, 2018 10:26 am

Still on this planet. Much obliged!
Human activity as a whole is killing everything. Spray at home, farm, use of conventional chemicals,.. all man made cr*p has its consequences. It is the ages of self chemical castration and suicide. Millions of people die of pollution and all that stuff we get with food, cosmetics etc.
They had allergies but not as massively as now. All newborns have something now. Soon there won’t be any sound and healthy human being. Only in those remote tribes, if civilisation sh.. doesnt reach them as well.

2hotel9
Reply to  Justus
December 19, 2018 5:54 am

Wow, you need some serious help.

Menicholas
Reply to  MarkW
December 18, 2018 1:56 pm

Holy crap…sucks to be you it sounds like.
Take a walk…the world is fine…it is your mind that is dark and polluted.

steve case
December 17, 2018 10:24 am

Organic foods is a scam so that produce with blemishes can be sold at a higher price.

n.n
Reply to  steve case
December 17, 2018 10:50 am

As with most things, organic has a value, but with progressive returns. Moderate your consumption accordingly. This involves a scientific problem that requires individual attention.

MarkW
Reply to  n.n
December 17, 2018 1:00 pm

The value of organic is almost 100% psychological.

Thomas Homer
December 17, 2018 10:25 am

” … has a bigger climate impact … due to the greater areas of land required”

The same argument can be applied to Wind and Solar energy ‘farms’ right?

Reply to  Thomas Homer
December 17, 2018 10:42 am

Maybe not for Wind, but probably for biofuels: corn for ethanol, and palm oil plantations.

The CO2 emissions aren’t actually a real problem, but the big hit on biodiversity, from putting all that extra land under the plow, is a real problem.

Neo
December 17, 2018 10:36 am

The ground-breaking aspect of the new study is the conclusion that this difference in land usage results in organic food causing a much larger climate impact.

… and I suppose they proved this experimentally

RobR
Reply to  Neo
December 17, 2018 11:59 am

No need for experiments, when the empirical evidence is staring you in the face.

December 17, 2018 10:40 am

This seems like a no-brainer (except for the certainly incorrect underlying assumption that carbon dioxide emissions are bad).

Dave O.
December 17, 2018 10:41 am

Are you human? Do you eat? You’re destroying the planet. Better come up with something more sustainable than eating.

Lance Flake
Reply to  Dave O.
December 17, 2018 10:54 am

Soylent Green (the original product) is a sustainable food to eat /sarc

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Lance Flake
December 17, 2018 12:19 pm

Not really. A human contains roughly 100,000 calories and takes 15-20 years to reach full size. During that time, they consume roughly 15 million calories. That’s less than a 1% return

Soylent Green is about as unsustainable a food source as they come

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Ben of Houston
December 17, 2018 1:16 pm

Humans do not contain calories. That’s like saying a human contains 98.6 degrees. Calories are a measurement of energy. Besides, the calories stated in human food are actually kilocalories.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 17, 2018 1:38 pm

After re-reading your comment I think I understand what you meant. That a human as a food source would be rated at 100,00o calories. Of course modern fat body humans may have a higher caloric value.

Menicholas
Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 17, 2018 9:37 pm

I have seen some people that, were one to attempt to calculate the caloric content of their corpulent carcass, it would flat-out break the interwebs.

n.n
December 17, 2018 10:46 am

And two corollaries. One, increase high-density populations centers. Two, decrease low-density energy products. More sardines, less blight.

DonM
December 17, 2018 10:57 am

“…the overall climate footprint is definitely greater than for conventional farmed foods. ”

What the hell is a climate footprint?

(I went to job site (trucking company) yesterday, to get a feel for the what will be needed to satisfy the regulators. The owner has a camera that notifies him when there are trespassers, so he showed up while I was there. Out of curiosity I asked him what he does with his trucks … how does stay so busy? The majority of the trucks are moving recyclables 100 miles one way & returning with rotten foodstuff for a biofuel reactor. Could someone tell me what the “climate footprint” is for such activities?)

icisil
December 17, 2018 11:05 am

Eco1: I’m going to do organic farm because it’s good for the environment
Eco2: Organic farming is bad for the climate.
Eco1: Wut? That means I’ll have to use conventional fertilizers…
Eco2: They’re made from oil. Oil is bad for the climate. Leave it in the ground.

(cue Rolling Stones 19th nervous breakdown playing in the background)

Eco1: Well nothing I do don’t seem to work. It only seems to make matters worse. Oh please …

Chorus: You better stop. Look around. Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes.
Here comes your climate nervous breakdown

Mike
December 17, 2018 11:07 am

Which Nature pub is this in?

Caligula Jones
December 17, 2018 11:13 am

A good read is Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals”: one of the techniques used in organic farming so that pesticides don’t have to be used is to flood the fields to kill the weeds, drain the water, then plant. Repeat.

So, no, I don’t let those bragging about how they eat organic and saving the plant off very easily when the matter comes up.

December 17, 2018 11:29 am

This study is deeply flawed even from within the carbon fundamentalist paradigm. It assumes a very superficial version of organic agriculture — one that basically imitates conventional agriculture but without all of its tools. True organic agriculture, as propounded by Rodale, is all about rebuilding soil. Its best practitioners record not only yields superior to conventional leads, but also rapid sequestration of carbon in the soil. What gives a lot of environmentalists cognitive dissonance is the fact the the fastest sequestration is accomplished through grazing livestock. All these years they’ve been telling us to go vegan.

If you are going to talk about “carbon opportunity cost” then you’ve got to look at deeper forms of organic agriculture, not just conversion of agricultural lands to forests.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Charles Eisenstein
December 17, 2018 12:22 pm

Yeah, keep believing your own propaganda. Seriously, you can’t be that stupid. If you get better yields and use fewer inputs, why is organic significantly more expensive? Why is everyone not doing it?

Caligula Jones
Reply to  Ben of Houston
December 17, 2018 1:12 pm

“Why is everyone not doing it?”

Same reason every business isn’t firing those expensive men and hiring women who are just as competent and who will work for 75 cents on the dollar…

Reply to  Ben of Houston
December 18, 2018 11:40 am

It is because, first, it is more labor intensive. So it does require more of that input. Secondly, the culture of farming has not yet adapted to some of the best organic practices. Third, the techniques do not always lend themselves to large scale commodity food production. They rely for example a lot on intercropping. You can’t have those enormous monocrop fields that can be mechanically harvested. Nonetheless, some innovative farmers are doing quite well at it. Look at Gabe Brown for example, a rancher in I think North Dakota. Oh yes, a fourth reason is government regulation that makes it really hard for small farmers to use innovative practices. For example food safety rules prevent farmers from using poultry to control pests in vegetable fields.

2hotel9
Reply to  Charles Eisenstein
December 19, 2018 5:58 am

Funny, looking at what “organic” products are widely available we find that vast majority of them are, wait for it,,,,,,produced on evil corporate farms! Not small, family style farms. Weird, ain’t it?!?!?

Reply to  Ben of Houston
December 18, 2018 1:51 pm

Spend a summer on an “Organic” farm. You will find out.

Reply to  Charles Eisenstein
December 17, 2018 12:23 pm

Link, please.

tty
Reply to  Charles Eisenstein
December 17, 2018 12:30 pm

And you can’t take an unlimited amount of nutrients out of a field without putting any back, no matter how much “soil-building” you do. Those phosphorus, potassium etc etc atoms must come from somewhere.

ozspeaksup
Reply to  tty
December 18, 2018 4:08 am

true
thats why only the grain used to be sold off and the straw used for feed chaff or bedding and returned to the property it came from. or the stubble is left and grazed so the cows etc process it for the soil in situ.
its why MIXED farms do better than monocultures

Reply to  tty
December 18, 2018 11:44 am

That is right. In the long term, various forms of fertility must be imported if the food is feeding people who don’t live on the farm. Ultimately a fully sustainable system would probably have to recycle human waste back into the soil.

MarkW
Reply to  Charles Eisenstein
December 17, 2018 1:04 pm

Best practices are like fusion, always 20 years in the future.

StephenP
Reply to  Charles Eisenstein
December 18, 2018 12:07 am

How do you keep deer out of the forests, and stop them eating the young trees?

2hotel9
Reply to  StephenP
December 18, 2018 5:58 am

Rifles work pretty good! Plant lots of corn and soybeans around forest and deer tend to only sleep in the trees, and do a bit of buck rubbin’!

Tom Gelsthorpe
December 17, 2018 11:37 am

It has long been obvious that organic food is an ideology hearkening back to the 17th century, before chemistry was well understood. Another defect of organic ideology is that “organic” in this context is a misnomer. In chemical terms, organic means “contains carbon.” By the ideology, it means “not synthetic” or “existing as is in nature.” Even that concept doesn’t fly. Plows don’t exist in nature, nor markets, nor trade, nor most crops commonly consumed, or animals domesticated. They are all products expressly “synthesized” by selective breeding over thousands of years.

Pesticides do exist in nature, and “organic” farmers do use them, but they’re limited by arbitrary distinctions. Rotenone is extracted from plants, so that’s okay — even though synthetic pesticides work better, with fewer side effects. Organic growers use copper sulphate as a fungicide, even though synthetic fungicides are more specific and less persistent.

“Conventional” in this context is the opposite of what it really means. Post-17th century agriculture is innovative. “Organic” agriculture is hidebound by convention. Specifically, organic advocates would abolish the Fritz-Haber process, if they could get away with it. That process synthesizes vital nitrogen nutrients from air and natural gas, and sharply increases yields. Those nitrogen compounds exist in nature, but not in sufficient amounts to support efficient agriculture — hence the lower yields of “organic” farms.

Oddly enough, many of the same people who excoriate climate skeptics for being “anti-science,” are anti-science themselves regarding food production. That opens a huge gap between the fate of humanity and the fate of the earth. Organic ideology is basically just a marketing gimmick for hypochondriacs.

Steve O
Reply to  Tom Gelsthorpe
December 17, 2018 1:08 pm

One of the methods of keeping insect pests away is to plant the plot in the middle of a field of produce that is being grown conventionally. But yes, the copper sulfate is also used and it is terrible for the soil.

The organic food, buy local, global warming, non-GMO, no-nukes crowd likes to think of themselves as pro-science but the opposite is the case.

ozspeaksup
Reply to  Steve O
December 18, 2018 4:06 am

sorry but in aus at least almost all soils are low in copper, so the minute amounts sprayed maybe one time only add to the soil and dont hurt much but the fungus.
any the plant absorbs is going to be a bonus for the humans eating it.

and rotenone has a short useful period of a few days at best
enough to knock the grubs on leaves off, but not nasty enough to continue killing for a week or more like chem synthetics

ksee
Reply to  Tom Gelsthorpe
December 17, 2018 1:44 pm

You can’t restrict use of organic fungicides and pesticides – as doing so would be harmful for environment!

https://www.politico.eu/article/the-champion-of-organic-pesticides-2/

“For organic farmers like [German Green MEP Martin] Häusling — and under European law — the label means a series of standards and practices resulting in a more sustainable method of agricultural production. Organic products frequently contain pesticide residues.

The European Commission wants to change that with a plan to bring the industry in line with what consumers really think organic food is — and limit pesticide residues.

In response, Häusling said that any measure limiting pesticide levels in organic products would hamstring green-minded farmers and ultimately prove harmful to the environment. “Reducing organic to a production without pesticides — that’s only one part of organic,” Häusling said. “What angers me is the fact that the Commission just picked this one criterion and made it the decisive one.””

(..and guess what – copper sulphate got yet another extension from EU commission…)

Bruce Cobb
December 17, 2018 11:55 am

Being rich is “worst for the climate”
Being middle class is also “worse for the climate”, but not quite as bad as rich
Being poor is still “bad for the climate”, but better than being middle class or rich
Being dead, or never existed is “perfect for the planet”
Hallelujah, we have a winner!

Caligula Jones
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
December 17, 2018 12:14 pm

…don’t give the eco-nuts any ideas. Things will start getting rough when they realize that Mother Nature isn’t listening to MSNBC…

mike the morlock
December 17, 2018 12:06 pm

Oh goodness people don’t you understand that “Organic” and vegan is better for you and so much more- I less expensive
ROTFLMAO!!!

https://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/oat-milk-shortage-prompts-sellers-to-charge-over-200-on-amazon

michael

December 17, 2018 12:12 pm

Excerpted from published commentary:

For all common biofuels (ethanol from wheat, sugar cane and corn, as well as biodiesel from palm oil, rapeseed and soya), the carbon dioxide cost is greater than the emissions from fossil fuel and diesel, the study shows.

“HA”, and biofuel producers were being paid (subsidies) by the Government because of the “CO2 neutral” junk science beliefs.

Pat Frank
December 17, 2018 12:13 pm

The article is a little misleading in suggesting that organic farms do not use fertilizer.

They do use fertilizer — typically the manure (feces) of cattle and perhaps of other farm animals. These are applied to the land. They are a good fertilizer, but have the drawback that they leach nitrogen all year round.

Modern high-technology farms apply nitrogen fertilizer just when the young crop needs it. Nitrogen leaching is reduced.

So, organic farming produces more eutrophication of water bodies.

Further, large scale organic farming would require a large-scale supply of manure, to sustain the fertility of the land.

This does not seem much-discussed in the literature, but the need for manure fertilizer means organic farms require a considerable cattle industry to sustain them. Were the cattle industry to also be organic-only, huge amounts of land would be necessary for cattle herds, to supply the manure fertilizer needed on organic farms.

Another element of organic farms not discussed follows from the larger land-area organic farms require.

Only the most arable land is used for farming. That means primarily the land richest in biodiversity is converted to farms. Organic farms are larger than equivalent high-technology farms. These larger organic farms take the greater native biodiversity from the previously wild lands.

A big publicity point touted for organic farms is that they are more biodiverse than high-technology farms.

But one wonders whether the positive difference is enough to make up for the higher loss of native biodiversity to the organic farm need for land. Typical organic farms need to take about 60% more land area to produce the equivalent quantity of crop.

I have not seen a calculation about the comparative loss of net biodiversity anywhere, though I’ve looked for it.

Urederra
Reply to  Pat Frank
December 17, 2018 1:36 pm

Manure has the problem of spreading pathogen bacterias and parasites. That was the main reason of changing to artificial. Once the problem is more or less controlled, we forgot about it. If we start using manure again, the pathogen bacterias and parasites will come back.

astonerii
Reply to  Urederra
December 17, 2018 3:46 pm

Just ask Chipotle

Rocketscientist
Reply to  Urederra
December 17, 2018 4:47 pm

Serious ecoli break-outs linked to manure have been reported. and… it will happen again.
this year’s romaine lettuce ecoli issue is yet to be resolved.
https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/outbreaks.html

Darrin
Reply to  Urederra
December 18, 2018 12:50 pm

They’ve been pushing using manure locally on the farmers. This year the farmer next to where we stable our horse decided to fertilize with manure for the first time. Half the horses in the stable came down with pigeon fever, lot of $$ spent on vet bills. Pigeon fever is common in cows and can spread to other livestock via mucus, flies, open cuts, etc. and can live in the soil up to two months.

Why am I blaming the cow manure? While pigeon fever is in the state it normally comes from dry climates while we live in the wet part of the state. It’s uncommon enough in our area that at first the vets where diagnosing various lumps as bug bites or allergic reactions. It wasn’t until the first lump burst and started draining that they realized pigeon fever was going through the barn.

While not proven that the neighbors act of spreading cow manure on his field it is the most likely source of the disease. During the infectious time frame, no horses were coming or going from the barn (not an active barn for showing/trail riding), vets didn’t have animals with pigeon fever they tended to and the farriers also didn’t have any other clients with pigeon fever so they were not bringing it in.

Reply to  Pat Frank
December 18, 2018 3:47 am

Pat Frank – December 17, 2018 at 12:13 pm

This does not seem much-discussed in the literature, but the need for manure fertilizer means organic farms require a considerable cattle industry to sustain them.

Your above statement may be verbally correct …. but technically incorrect, because, to wit:

A considerable cattle (beef) industry would provide very little to zilch “collectible” manure for use as fertilizer because it is distributed over the entire grazing area by the cattle themselves.

And/or a considerable cattle (dairy) industry would provide very little to zilch “collectible” manure for use as fertilizer because most all manure that is collected in the milking parlors (barn) is distributed over the grain crop fields and/or the grazing area.

2hotel9
Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
December 18, 2018 6:03 am

I know 3 dairy farmers in our area who sell manure because their milking herds produce more than they need for their own crop needs. Cows produce A LOT of manure. Over the last 48 years I have filled the slot of Manure Removal Technician no few times.

Reply to  2hotel9
December 19, 2018 4:27 am

2hotel9 – December 18, 2018 at 6:03 am

Cows produce A LOT of manure.

“Yup”, you are correct.

But cows have to EAT A LOT ……… in order to produce A LOT of manure.

Especially dairy cows that are producing several gallons of milk every day.

I know 3 dairy farmers in our area who sell manure because their milking herds produce more than they need for their own crop needs.

Ya get less manure out ….. than the feed ya put in.

So, are you inferring that those “3 dairy farmers” are purchasing a considerable amount of their needed feed from a vendor?

2hotel9
Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
December 19, 2018 6:11 am

Yep, they do, mainly from other farmers in our region. Much of their excess manure they sell to Gardenscape in north Butler county PA, the rest to other local farmers. Another source of extra cow manure is from several local feedlot operations, something that has kinda spread in the last few years around here.

ozspeaksup
Reply to  Pat Frank
December 18, 2018 4:15 am

you dont need a lot of cows to fertilise a field well
and if the soils healthy the microbes and bacteria in soil use the nutrients so leaching? isnt an issue
worms and dungbeetles can remove a horses poop in about 4 days subsoil where its needed, and where surface water isnt moving it anywhere off farm.
its spraying liquid manure from feedlotted farms thats an issue
and if youre so worried about bugglies? then heat treating it prior would fix that

report on food industry news today is one in 20 CONVENTIONAL lettuces in UK carries norovirus
hmm>

ATheoK
December 17, 2018 12:31 pm

The article notes a partial recognition of reality:

Lower yields,
Greater crop damage and loss to insects, fungus and diseases,
Great labor required for lower yields,
Uses the same level of fossil fuels per land unit.

It is a Doh! moment for any organic supporter who stops to actually think through the process.

“Stefan Wirsenius notes that the findings do not mean that conscientious consumers should simply switch to buying non-organic food. “The type of food is often much more important. For example, eating organic beans or organic chicken is much better for the climate than to eat conventionally produced beef,” he says. “Organic food does have several advantages compared with food produced by conventional methods,” he continues. “For example, it is better for farm animal welfare. ”

Stefan cites many gross assumptions without supplying any validation.
Animal welfare is unchanged, unless one considers that sick animals take longer if they recover.

Organic foods have not demonstrated any advantages over conventional foods.

Stefan claims eating organic beans of chicken is “better for the climate” without citing any actual proof.

“an effective way is to focus instead on the different impacts of different types of meat and vegetables in our diet. Replacing beef and lamb, as well as hard cheeses, with vegetable proteins such as beans, has the biggest effect. Pork, chicken, fish and eggs also have a substantially lower climate impact than beef and lamb.”

The same tired hype without checking with reality.
There is zero advantage to replacing animal proteins with vegetable proteins.

Again, the author reaches out to some nebulous undefined climate impact. Reflecting another urbanite who does not understand where and how foods are planted, grown, harvested and to our tables.

“In organic farming, no fertilisers are used. The goal is to use resources like energy, land and water in a long-term, sustainable way. Crops are primarily nurtured through nutrients present in the soil. The main aims are greater biological diversity and a balance between animal and plant sustainability. Only naturally derived pesticides are used.”

This paragraph clearly identifies the author as a believer, not an open minded scientist.

“In organic farming, no fertilisers are used”
Simply untrue.

For example, the use of most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, growth hormones, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering (genetically modified organisms or GMOs) are prohibited.”

Note that key word “synthetic”.
Meaning that harvested fertilizer and many soil amendments can be added without affecting the “organic” label; lime, iron sulfate, guano, manure, seaweed, etc.
Identifying the differences between synthetic and natural fertilizers can be problematic. Which is why organic producers are supposed to have inspectors approve their crop applications; not that testing can identify use of every unapproved synthetics.

“The arguments for organic food focus on consumers’ health, animal welfare, and different aspects of environmental policy.”

Also untrue.
The propaganda and religious beliefs in organic foods focus on unproven “consumers’ health, animal welfare, and different aspects of environmental policy”.

Their “arguments” focus on pushing their beliefs to the exclusion of reality, and of course, forcing all others to adhere to the beliefs of the organic and vegetarian cultures.

Rocketscientist
Reply to  ATheoK
December 17, 2018 4:50 pm

I wonder if they speak to their plants do they tell them the truth?

gringojay
December 17, 2018 12:47 pm

Organic farming in the USA permits use of the fungicide copper sulfate; it’s soil 1/2 life can be as slow as 1,600 days. I recall some French wineries had conflicting opinions about using organic grapes because of the fungicide.

Article has a poorly phrased portion where it claims organic farming doesn’t fertilize & relys on just the soil. My impression is that most western country organic farmers fertilize with animal manure &/or compost; some may term these soil ammendments rather than fertilizer.

There are other organic tactics, like adherents of “bio-dynamic” farming prepare. Bokashi (also nicknamed “EM”) fermention leachate is another natural product used in irrigation & sprays in asia.

Chitosan (a product from chitin) is probaably even a better promoted adjunct.

Urine prepared with a magnesium source is also made into ammonium magnesium phosphate, called “struvite”, is also relatively well known.

Another non-western natural agriculture product is nick named “wood vinegar”, pyro-ligneous acids (not acetic acid vinegar) condensed out of smoke produced by anaerobic wood (incl. bamboo) burning. It’s quite simple to make & has use as pesticide, weed killer, prevent root rot, fungicide, pest repellant, seed pre-treatment, & a fruit plant (not used during flowering) plant growth regulator.

India is the origin of several cow based natural tactics. Cow irine is used for bacterial leaf blight, fusarial wilt, helminthosporum leaf spot & ripe rot. The formula for Panchagavyam includes fresh dung, ghee (clarrified butter), curd, milk & urine among other things. It is used as a growth promoter, on wintering over crops, pest control, disease resistance & promotes better shelf life; application can be sprayed (filtered 1st), on soil

Rocketscientist
Reply to  gringojay
December 17, 2018 5:04 pm

When exactly do highly processed chemical extracts transition from inorganic to organic and vice versa? It seems to me that processing fuel to extract partially combusted hydrocarbons to further create essentially creosote tars somewhere along the line lost its “organic” cred.
It seems to me that when I took organic chemistry back at the ‘tute it didn’t differentiate where the oxygen, carbon, hydrogen or nitrogen came from, and quite frankly the purer the sources the better. Sure cow urine is a great source of urea, but when refined it’s even better.
These modern day dunderheads seem to think they’ve discovered something…yeah the past. They should have listened in high school.

gringojay
Reply to  Rocketscientist
December 17, 2018 8:39 pm

“Wood vinegar” derived from hemicellulos, cellulose & lignin substrate contains 280 compounds (acetic acid “vinegar” among these); among them are 3,5-di-methyl-phenol, 2-meth-oxy-phenol, 1-pentanol & butanoic acid. The quality of phenols extracted gets better as processing temperature goes up to an ideal °C.

The tar content (to address “creosote” issue) of condensate is settled out by gravity over a 6 month period in poor countries, or centrifuged in laboratory production. Yes, the high temperature does degrade ligno-cellulose organic compounds.

Application rate of <1% dilution is a growth stimulant; as spray the interval is evety 8 weeks. It can be added to mulch &/or compost; ground spraying knocks back pathogenic soil micro-organisms & anthropods.

For orientation, some bamboo substrate yield 250 ml "wood vinegar"/ Kg bamboo. The product is quite practical since it can be made from wood, palm bunches, cassava peel, maize cobs & other things now deemed plant waste (pine & eucalyptus wood are not recommended substrate).

The pyrolytic method creates a byproduct that is charcoal as another value added product. Hard wood chips yield a bit under 25% of charcoal; for example 1,000 gr. teak chips yields 222 gr. charcoal + 480 ml "wood vinegar +42 gr. tar + 3 ml of oil. In reference to 1st paragraph that 1,000 gr. teak chip "wood vinegar" is close to 3% phenols (& 14% carbonyls + 7% acetic acid).

There are nuances to temperature & time of elaboration; basically once pyrolysis occuring the "wood vinegar" collection (by condensation) can go on for 90 minutes. If temperature goes too high the different substrates experience secondary thermal cracking causing the charcoal to keep pyrolyzing gases that do not condense.

Hydroponic systems can replace nitric acid controlling the nutrient solution pH at the rate of 0.25 ml "wood vinengar"/L of nute reservoir. For context here are just 2 other dilution rates: as fungicide = 1:100, as pesticide= 1:20.

ozspeaksup
Reply to  gringojay
December 18, 2018 4:22 am

I want some.
any idea where one gets it?

gringojay
Reply to  ozspeaksup
December 18, 2018 8:38 am

@ ozspeaksup, – Thailand (& Taiwan) bamboo wood vinegar is sold on eBay ( under name “wood vinegar” ) & shipped internationally. There is a USA producer specializing in only certain substrates processing & think have seen another operator is making this in Australia. YouTube has some rustic
asian processors’ video & even some from universities (Makarrere, Uganda & Kentucky, USA).

The liquid is red-brown color & smells like smoke; in fact if you ever see smoke flavored food products the chances are that is a purified (distilled) wood vinegar made from fruit bearing wood. Although I have not employed it as such, nor investigated indications, there are some claims it has uses internally for farm animals. The USA producer mentions human consumption, but again I have no idea about that.

I’ll add that I used it externally as a analgesic rub & it absorbs quite readily, but smokey smell lingers. An old fashioned folk linament remedy was vinegar + gum turpentine + dash of liquid soap (emulsifier) with whatever else one thought relevant. So, actually I now use the bamboo wood vinegar + turpentine + my own available extracts in a concoction as a non-greasy, quick drying linament with satisfactory results (musculo-skeletal pain & swelling reduction).

For orientation here are some common water dilutions (from my notes):
pesticide = 1:20, weed control =1:50, root rot prevention = 1:100, fungicide = 1:100, repel bugs =1:200 (against lice = 1:400), seed pre-treatment = 1:200, against mold = 1:200, fruit growth = 1:500 (not to be used during flowering), plant growth accelerant = 1:200 & as human (animal) extremity soak = 1:50 (immersion 1/2 hour).

ozspeaksup
Reply to  gringojay
December 19, 2018 3:43 am

thanks heaps for the reply;-) i will try n hunt some down
I did find an orange/pineoil safe weedkiller a while back but its hard to get
it seems to be similar? to DMSO which my vet supplied for pet use and i also use on my arthritic joints
the 3second or less absorption rates a ripper(should be used to show how dermal poisoning can keel a farmer over so fast)
the taste of garlic/sulphur is a bit yuk
but it works
and apparently can be useful in removing heavy metals from the body, which is one of the reasons my vet got onto it first
also some research done on it for cataracts or glaucoma, cant remember now.

December 17, 2018 2:13 pm

Ah schadenfreud.

David Burrows
December 17, 2018 3:19 pm

It has long past the stage where human population can be sustained by organic produce grown from the Earth. It follows that those who insist on organic are selfish rich who do it at the expense of the poor and damage biodiversity harming the ecosphere. Its not necessary to reduce human population as we can sustain ourselves with factory produced food and still leave space for the wild.

Bill In Oz
December 17, 2018 3:23 pm

This Swedish ‘research is crap non science.

Check out the assumptions folks : A key assumption is that organic farmers must clear forests in order to grow more organic food.

Duh ?

I’ve been an organic farmer here in Australia since 1985. And I have never cleared forest. In fact I have planted thousands of trees to re-create native bushland habitat.

I was also an organic farmer inspector for 4 years here in Oz. Part of the certification standards in. that a minimum of 5% of farm title will be kept as native forest / bushland. Most organic farmers I inspected ( hundreds ) had far more land in bush that that 5% minimum.

And that rule is also part of the IFOAM global international organic standards.

So there we have it. Adopt a crap fake assumption and then build a grand fake hypothesis on it. And get lots of publicity al l over the world.

Why does this fel so similar to the CO2 fake hypothesis ?

Because it does the same crappy type of science.

MarkW
Reply to  Bill In Oz
December 17, 2018 3:51 pm

The point is that it takes more land to grow organic. If the land weren’t being used for organic, it have been left natural.

Bill In Oz
Reply to  MarkW
December 18, 2018 4:53 am

Exactly who says ?

There is another assumption in that logic : “That an organic farmer will always want to grow the same amount of crop or head of live stock, per hectare, as a conventional one”

But go figure ! Here in Oz there is a premium on organic foods & produce. I saw the same in the USa and in the UK and In France. So the income per kg is higher…And lots of farmers are happy with that trade off..It’s called being less exploitive mate.

gringojay
Reply to  Bill In Oz
December 17, 2018 5:06 pm

Hi Bill in Oz, – Good hard work you are doing. I remember being brought up to Atherton in the early 1970s to talk with some young organic adherents. Anyway I think you might find the following interesting.

Comparing organic to conventional ag should consider not only average differences in yield, but the way the comparative yield ratio is distributed over the years. Fig. 3 of the below cited review (2017) is quite illustrative of 37 species grown in 17 countries according to 52 reports. There is another diagram showing the organic vs. conventional differential according to whether tropical or otherwise.

Organic horticulture (not row crops) range is specified for organic ag having a 10% chance of being 50% lower yielding than conventional ag, yet 50% to 60% of the time yielding 75% of conventiional ag & even a 20% chance of organic horticulture yielding better than conventional.

As per free full text available on-line = “Lower average yielda but similar yield variability in organic verses conventional horticulture. A meta analysis.”

Authors also specify one observation about soil feature in organic ag context. Organic vs. conventional yields “… differed as a function of rainfall … organic maize out yields conventional … in extreme conditions….” To which I will add that a large proportion of humanity can not grow wheat where they live, but maize is their grain.

Bill In Oz
Reply to  gringojay
December 18, 2018 4:54 am

Exactly who says ?

There is another assumption in that logic : “That an organic farmer will always want to grow the same amount of crop or head of live stock, per hectare, as a conventional one”

But go figure ! Here in Oz there is a premium on organic foods & produce. I saw the same in the USa and in the UK and In France. So the income per kg is higher…And lots of farmers are happy with that trade off..It’s called being less exploitive mate.

Justus
Reply to  Bill In Oz
December 17, 2018 7:21 pm

Don’t bother refuting this. It’s pointless. I would eat organic foods as well if it was possible here. Growing my own vegetables, I can eat them confidently knowing that they are not sprayed with ‘n’ types of pesticides, fungicides and other stuff. My body reacts quite badly to those chemicals – stomach and skin problems straight away.

ozspeaksup
Reply to  Bill In Oz
December 18, 2018 4:27 am

Yay Bill from down in Vic;-) ++++

Bill In Oz
Reply to  ozspeaksup
December 18, 2018 4:45 am

I was in East Gippsland for a long while but now I’m in South Australia. The Adelaide Hills. It’s good that organic farmers are speaking up here on this blog post…Some f the comments from other folk betray a real ignorance of organic farming..Almost as bad as the Swedish researcher who started this all off..

ozspeaksup
Reply to  Bill In Oz
December 18, 2018 5:02 am

I was a sth Aussie for most of my life. I miss the good soils so much.
Im in the west with sand no lime and the clay that allows the redhums to thrive but not much else.
Adelaide hills, what bliss, except for creeping suburbia ruining good farmland now;-/
family are from Mt Barker Strath n Littlehampton, Macclesfield…pity they sold out/died off , before I was old enough to get a hold there.

Bill In Oz
Reply to  ozspeaksup
December 18, 2018 5:32 am

I am at Mt Barker on Bollan Rd now that i have retired. It’s a beautiful part of the world. And yes the Herbig paddocks across the road are re-zoned for housing and sports ground facilities. Mt Barker was about 3000 in 1990. It is now around 25,000 people . So today I am researching the ‘Heat island effects’ of that huge population growth on the BOM’s weather records for Mt Barker which are the most complete set for SA. They started in 1961 !

I think that most of the increase in the mean average annual minimum & maximum temperatures recorded by the BOM here are due to the Heat Island effect. But need to double check it all.

By the way Strath is also a boom town now as well. And the Long BValley Rd a bit of a death trap with all the extra traffic.

ozspeaksup
Reply to  Bill In Oz
December 19, 2018 3:51 am

hi Bill, yeah last seen some yrs ago it breaks my heart to see it now. suburban tack on prime land.
heritage cottages my nan was born in at Littlehampton now some modern ugly crud.
A friend at Echunga rarely goes out now and uses backroads when she has to due to idiots treating rural rds like the freeway,
and you will be correct re the heat island effects, no way even up that high the mass of homes aircons and cars wont be altering it for the worse.
Winter school camps at Mylor used to be brutally icy cold, somehow i doubt it like that much now.
Adelaides been trashed thoroughly.
Im sort of glad I wont have too many years left to see it all get worse

michael hart
December 17, 2018 3:53 pm

“Our study shows that organic peas, farmed in Sweden, have around a 50 percent bigger climate impact than conventionally farmed peas […] says Stefan Wirsenius, an associate professor from Chalmers, and one of those responsible for the study.

Perhaps he should really be described as “one of those culpable for the study”, which probably also just discovered that round wheels work better than square ones.

And if I ever met him, I would like to ask him what the S.I. units of “climate impact” are.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
December 17, 2018 3:56 pm

Brain in Knee Technologies were invented recently that (a) global warming is causing severe droughts and floods by WMO/UN Secretary General in 2013, (b) organic farming is contributing global warming by Stefan Wirsenius from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden [published in Journal Nature], etc.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

eeyore
December 17, 2018 4:04 pm

Here in Iowa, the local PBS ran a feature on a local organic farmer. He really didn’t cultivate much for the weeds any only used natural poisons or predatory species for insect control. His yields were less but he gained a premium price so his income ended up being the same as other farmers at the end. He looked at this as a good thing.

So having more expensive food for fewer people in the world is good. What can go wrong with that?

2hotel9
December 17, 2018 5:01 pm

All food is organic, unless it is made of stone or metal that is! Oy.

Had two friends try the “organic” farming gig 10 years ago, they nearly went bankrupt after the first year, only thing that saved them was selling hunting leases on their forested sections. Went back to “normal” farming and managed to get out of hock in only 3 years. They turnout excellent sweet corn, wheat, soybeans and timothy/alfalfa plus various vegetables. Diversify, thats the key!

Snarling Dolphin
December 17, 2018 6:27 pm

Oh come on! Next somebody’ll try to tell me recycling plastic is a big fat joke!

otropogo
December 17, 2018 7:04 pm

“…there is a lack of scientific evidence to show that organic food is in general healthier and more environmentally friendly than conventionally farmed food, according to the National Food Administration of Sweden and others..”

Who cares what the National Food Aministration of Sweden “and others” say about the environmental “friendlyness” of organic food? Are they environmental scientists?

As for whether it’s “generally healthier”, if they want to dispute this assumption that most rational people have come to (and put their money on), why don’t they do some solid scientific studies to confirm their doubts. Otherwise they should shut up, whoever they are. If Sweden is anything like Canada, the USA, and France, their National Food Administration is in the pocket of the “conventional” food industry, and anything but an impartial broker.

But let’s see – is it healthier to ingest herbicides, insecticides, antibiotics, heavy metals, maybe some nuclear material. Really?

Reminds of the time I was in Zurich looking to buy a few litres of distilled water. I was directed to a pharmacy where I was offered an 8oz bottle for an obscene amount of money. When I told them I was looking for drinking water, I was told drinking distilled water would make me very ill, because I’d be missing all those important minerals that come with it.

I’ve heard the same rubbish from a tea guru, who travels around the world buying choice lots of tea. He told me this during lecture session he gave on buying and drinking tea. I guess when you’re an expert you no longer need to use your brain to persuade people you’re right. If I want minerals in my water, I’ll put them in myself, thanks, and not leave up to the local water utility, etc..

And finally a word about lumping categories. What the hell does environmental friendlyness have to do with healthy eating? This kind of lumping happens all the time, and the main effect is shameless exaggeration. The most notorious and frequent instance is there were “hundreds(/thousands) of dead and injured.” This sort of apples plus oranges propagandizing should be a red flag for anyone, that the writer is shamelessly leveraging the effect of the actual statistics (if any).

PS if I have failed to reply to some comments on my posts recently, it’s because since the new format I don’t get any email notices of such. I have to come back the the page and search it, and thats pretty tedious…

Greytide
December 17, 2018 10:50 pm

I have never really understood the Organic stuff. I have never eaten an Inorganic carrot in my life!
As far as I was aware, the opposite of Organic is Inorganic. Yet another case of a word use being bastardised.

Terra
December 18, 2018 6:24 am

Most intelligent comment section ever.
Enjoy your droughts, massive annual erosion rates, decreasing water stores and dwindling bee populations… slow clap.

Justus
Reply to  Terra
December 18, 2018 7:30 am

Haha. Good job!

Snarling Dolphin
Reply to  Terra
December 21, 2018 1:43 pm
gail
December 18, 2018 8:19 am

My apologies if I repeat something as I haven’t read all the comments.

My organic dairy farming neighbor plants open pollinated, MN13 corn in which he selects ears for the following year to plant. He fertilizes only with cow manure and green crops (rye, spelt), has tried multiple weed control systems from burning (set corn back so much no rows were visible because of the weeds at harvest) to now planting into a rye mat with ridge till. His yield this fall was in the 30-40 bu/a range, in this tough year the local conventional farmers were in the 120-200 bu/a range on the same type of soil.

Re: organic v. conventional seed prices
I just got a 2019 price list from a seed dealer in IA. 5301 alfalfa: conventional-$150/50#; organic:$290/50#; certified Shelby oats: conventional-$10.25/bu; organic-$12.25/bu. The company did not have identical corn or beans with prices listed. Organic seed is always higher priced for the same reasons as food: reduced yield and lots of wasted resources keeping the organic certification trail intact.

Keep in mind the organic farmers also have a special government program for cost-sharing their organic certification costs that isn’t available (because there is no need) to conventional farmers.

gail
December 18, 2018 8:27 am

The abattoir who processes my sheep once told me he processes a lot of old cows from organic dairy farms. Because the farm gate organic milk price was so high the farmers tended to keep milk cows long past the time a conventional farmer would have kept them. He told me he wouldn’t eat any of them because their bones were hollow. How does that animal produce “healthier” food?

Also, some organic pesticides are more toxic than conventional pesticides. It all has to do with the LD50 rating.

gringojay
Reply to  gail
December 18, 2018 10:29 am

Hi gail, – I, like my neighbors in Gringolandia, keep producing milkers as long as possible; good milk yielding “native” adapted (hot & semi-arid) stock is expensive. Yes, at slaughter their meat is reportedly lower eating quality; yet the protein is still healthy protein if one eats meat.

Bone is either trabecular (ex: like in flat bones) or cortical (ex: like in shafts of long bones). It is trabecular bone with it’s 30 to >90% porosity where most mineral turnover occurs (cortical bone porosity is only 5-30%).

Once consider bone’s dry weight of ash (~45% of fresh bone is ash) then under “full” conditions about 37% of ash is calcium & about 18.5% is phosphorus. Although it may sound illogical, osteoporosis in cows occurs more readily when there is consistant low phosphorus in their diet & most supplemental feeds augment phosphorus along with calcium. In my region we all give a bit of supplemental feed at milking time (it’s all hand milking here abouts).

Mineral mobilization out of trabecular bone is not a linear dynamic. Cows mobilize those minerals in late pregnancy (gestation) & even early lactation no matter how much their feed contains of calcium &/or phosphorus.

When calf is new & even up to the 30th day of milking (lactation) the calcium ratio (%) in ash content of trabecular bone is higher (a metabolic partitioning) than the calcium % of bone ash by the 60th (or even 120th) day of after giving birth. (On the other hand in cortical bone the % of calcium in that bone ash drops when calf born as opposed to when cow lactating). This mineral cycling has been measured in ewes to be a 50% reduction in trabecular bone pores’ content of minerals once the mother is at a stage of mid-lactation.

The abattoir you mention is possibly recieving “organic” dairy cows that have produced their last replacement & nurtured it to an age where the mother is no longer needed (& as per above, trabecular bone % calcium depleting). Her “hollow” trabecular bones when sent to slaughter may not have been that way if examined at a different time. As for abattoir’s rejection of eating hollow bone cow’s meas this kind of professional preference is understandable, he has the luxury of choicest product – I know a few money poor farmers who won’t eat produce unless it was recently prepared for that meal.

Superchunk
December 18, 2018 12:00 pm

A much more legitimate issue with elements of “organic” farming is how to do no-till (which reduces erosion) without herbicides. I’d be curious to hear a response from one of the active farmers here on that.

That said, the most compelling case for organic I have heard and which I try to adhere to, is to buy organic oats since oats (and some beans) typically have relatively high Round-up contamination.

Janya
December 18, 2018 3:22 pm

I am sirprised that this article is published internationally, so disappointed with this journal. The authors do not understand that organic farming standard does not allow deforestation. What’s about the comparison between the two farming practice itself plus emissions from input use and the production of inputs for both farming. I am really want to know the all factors for this calculation. I would not object and disappoint with the authors if they use the terrm ‘may cause more climate impact if deforestation involved’.

gringojay
December 19, 2018 8:57 am

Hi Janya, –If you are still interested & following up here let me know. For brevity this is my answer.

Herbicides are what “conventional” no-till uses. What you are wondering about can be called “organic rotational no-till”, explained below.

The rotational aspect is to plant an organic cover crop that is later flattened by a particularly designed roller to also kill the organic cover crop; then the organic cash crop is planted into the plant debris, which suppresses weed germination (weed seed gets no light). Rye is well suited for that cover crop when cash crop is soy beans & vetch is suitable cover crop when cash crop is corn. The sacrificial organic cover crop & rotated in organic cash crop can be other combinations – different cover crops have variation in their effectiveness suppressing weeds.

Johann Wundersamer
December 26, 2018 3:57 am

“The fact that more land use leads to greater climate impact has not often been taken into account in earlier comparisons between organic and conventional food,” says Stefan Wirsenius. “This is a big oversight, because, as our study shows, this effect can be many times bigger than the greenhouse gas effects, –

and that after 40 evermore tricky climate modelling science years.

Time is running out!

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